From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

Taken for Granted

Doing good is the only certainly happy action of a man’s life.

Sir Phillip Sidney

It’s strange looking back on my relationship with my dad, because for the first thirty years of my life we didn’t have much of one.

No, we weren’t separated by divorce, long hours at work or even a grudge lingering from my not-so-pleasant adolescence. Over the years I’d developed a vague composite of my father—a tall, shy man who worked very hard.

I just never really paid him any mind. He was a fixture that I took for granted.

Then nine years ago, when I was pregnant in my second trimester and bleeding, my dad showed up to offer his help. I was surprised. Sure, in the past he’d given me financial aid, fatherly advice and fixed broken appliances, but money, words and tools weren’t going to prevent a possible miscarriage.

Still, every day he came. He took me grocery shopping, did the heavy chores of cleaning and undeniably maintained my household.

At first I felt awkward having my retired dad around on a daily basis. I even felt guilty at times. I didn’t know how to relate to this calm, quiet gentleman because at the time that’s all he was to me, a nice, helpful man.

But, somewhere between folding laundry together and watching The Oprah Winfrey Show, we started talking. It seemed silly that it took a talk show’s calamity to break the ice between us. Yet soon we were voicing our opinions on everything from politics to child-rearing. Then things got more personal, and we started swapping life stories.

My dad became a remarkable man who had a fascinating history—and a new granddaughter.

After the baby, Dad continued coming over and helping out. Our projects began extending beyond household chores, and he taught me how to hold a hammer “like a man.” We built furniture, then a shed. To this day he arrives religiously at my door every other week to help me get ready for Girl Scout meetings in my garage.

My friends find it amusing that my dad is still helping out even though my two girls have started school full-time, but they don’t understand. It’s not just about the work anymore. Working together broadens our understanding of one another. I doubt the issues of race, religion and morality would have come up during a brief lunch at the mall. So you’re more likely to find my dad and me complaining about the inflated prices of nails in a hardware store than having a polite conversation over a hamburger. He is my best friend, after all, and that involves more than talk of the weather.

Knowing him is to understand what makes a man noble.

When he reads this, he’ll probably laugh and wonder what the heck I’m talking about, but I know him now and that’s an honor I almost lost.

So, to anyone searching for a true friend, I recommend starting with the person you may have taken most for granted.

Donna Pennington

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